The Jefferson City Environmental Quality Commission and city staff are working to create a citywide rain barrel program to increase awareness of local stormwater issues.
Throughout the past year, the Jefferson City Council and residents have discussed ways to address stormwater infrastructure issues — estimated to cost several millions of dollars.
"It would shine a light on issues and make people aware of stormwater problems," Public Works Director Matt Morasch said during Wednesday's commission meeting.
Residents could place rain barrels around their homes to catch runoff water to reuse.
The commission also suggested residents use rain gardens, a ground depression or hole that would allow rain runoff to be absorbed in the ground.
Morasch and commission members suggested the city provide a limited number of rain barrels to residents and create incentives for having rain barrels or rain gardens. The City Council would have to approve providing the rain barrels and incentives, Morasch said.
While a rain barrel program or rain garden would not solve stormwater issues or even make a dent in those issues, he emphasized, it would provide education and increase awareness of local stormwater issues.
"There's lots of people out there who just want to do their part, and this would be one way to do that," Morasch said. "If this group were to get involved in certifying them or designating properties, saying, 'Hey, this property has done something to be certified in water friendliness,' then it creates public awareness, and maybe more people will do it and it may help with interactions between neighbors.
"The more people are educated about any subject, the more likely we are to start solving some of those problems."
The commission passed a motion to facilitate the rain barrel program once city staff irons out the details.
"The Environmental Quality Commission is concerned with increasing the quality of the environment in Jefferson City, so any way we could reuse stormwater or slow stormwater runoff is obviously a good thing," commission member Bill Plank said.
Ward 5 Councilman Mark Schreiber said the city still needs to analyze ways to address stormwater infrastructure problems, along with ways to encourage people to be mindful of what they put in stormwater inlets.
"You see it all the time — people out here with leaf blowers and they're blowing the leaves out into the streets so they can be washed down the storm drain," said Schreiber, who is the council liaison on the commission. "Well, that mats over the storm drains, and then what happens? It clogs them up completely. I see that as being a much greater problem that needs to be addressed."
Morasch said city staff will work on the rain barrel program and present a proposal to the commission next month.
The Jefferson City Department of Public Works receives $360,000 annually from the capital improvement sales tax stormwater funds to fix stormwater issues.
In October, the City Council approved using a $750,000 supplemental appropriation — passed by the council in August — to work on some stormwater projects and hire three additional crew members to work on neighborhood stormwater problems.
In other action Wednesday, the commission approved a slogan for its trash and litter campaign: "JC trash talks." The next step is to work with High 5 Communications — the local marketing firm the Jefferson City Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department hired in August to help with branding and advertising — to promote the campaign.
In September, the commission discussed creating a 12-month trash and litter control awareness campaign, where each month would target topics like the city's adopt-a-street or adopt-a-spot programs, state law regarding litter and recycling opportunities in Jefferson City.
Mayor Carrie Tergin said in September the campaign should be proactive and encourage people not only to avoid littering but also to pick up litter.
Amy Berendzen, Jefferson City Public Schools' director of school-community relations, told the commission the school district could implement the slogan in its character education program.